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It sounds really good today, but how long before the Clarkson signing becomes a “bad” contract?

Right off the top, let me say that I understand that many Leaf followers are thrilled that Bozak re-signed, and that Nonis has inked David Clarkson as well.  I get it.  Bozak is a nice player that brings useful qualities to the team.  He’s been a decent Leaf and fits well with Kessel. (Heck, this might even nudge Kessel to sign on for a long-term deal, though I somehow sense Kessel's agent will want teams to show them the cash...)

Whether Bozak is worth four million plus a year is another story, but the Leafs like him, a lot of fans like him, so it is what it is. (I can’t believe where hockey has evolved, how money is thrown around at what amounts to very average NHL players.  I guess in a  30-team league clubs are desperate to keep OK players.  I’d say that’s a story for another day, but I’m a voice in the wilderness on that one.  No one wants to hear any more how overpaid these guys are…)

Clarkson brings a dimension the Leafs badly need, physicality and some skill on the wing. Now, why they had to offer him seven years, I don’t know. I can only surmise other teams were high on him, but balked at the term- and the Leafs didn’t.  It just feels like a contract that looks good today, and may not look so good in two or three years.

That said, hey, I’m a guy who has often posted here that I wish the Leafs (I’m talking over the past forty years or more) had gotten their hands on certain really good players earlier, whether we’re talking about Dickie Moore, Brad Maxwell, Al Secord or in more recent times Eric Lindros and Alex Mogilny.  All were wonderful players; we just got them too late in their careers.

So if Clarkson becomes exactly the kind of player that I’ve always hoped that we would be able to acquire early enough in their career for them to make an impact here, great.  I just don't know how anyone can project what an almost 30 year-old NHL player will be “worth” five years from now, much less seven.

Do these moves help?  Yes, though I also understand some fans will wonder why Grabovski, with his determination and skill level, was not worth what he was paid here, but Bozak (though it is a lower base salary, I realize) is.  It’s in the eye of the beholder, I guess.  Clearly Grabbo was not someone Carlyle liked as a player, and the coach, on the other hand, loves Bozak.

Are the Leafs better today than when the season ended?  Somewhat.  Bolland and Clarkson help, while losing Grabovski (at least the way he was being utilized here) won’t be much of a loss.  Same with MacArthur.  He had no future here with the current coach.

Problem is, I’m still not seeing us as being noteworthy at center ice.  Who is the "number-one"?  And if Nonis intends now to find and bring in an elite centre, do we really need Bozak?  Especially given that we already have Kadri, Bolland, McClement, whoever the "new" guy would be and Colborne waiting his turn.  (Remember, Colborne was the guy so many were pushing this past season, and the young center former Leaf exec Rick Dudley had all but guaranteed would be a second-line center this past season...)

So as things stand, we still don’t have a first-line center, and we still desperately need a stud defenseman who can be a punishing, minute-eating defender. These are the same “needs” we had when Burke took over five years ago.

Now, if we just want to be a nice, middle-of-the-road, ‘if we get lucky we might win a couple of rounds in the playoffs’ kind of team, I think we’re already there.

But if we’re looking for more, there is a lot of work still to do.

If Leaf fans are really honest, how would you rate our team against the best teams in hockey?  For me, our goaltending is a B.  (I’m not talking about potential, I’m talking about proven ability over time…)  Our defense as a whole is maybe a B.  Our forward group is a B.

Do “B” teams win the Stanley Cup?

That’s why I think there is a lot more on Nonis’ plate.  I'm open to hearing why re-signing Bozak is a good move.  I'm just not sure we are much further ahead.  Clarkson over MacArthur?  Sure.

We'll have to wait to see where Nonis goes from here. Because we're not where we need to be, yet.


  1. Michael,

    I like Clarkson as a player. Will I like him 6 years from now after he is 35? Probably not so much, but maybe he is still somewhat productive, tough to say. I heard that he was offered more money at the same length by Edmonton and he chose to play in Toronto. I like that he wants to be here, lots of guys it seems, don't. I admire the fact that he wants to make a difference here, the greatest city to play hockey in, bar none. Darcy Tucker, Tie Domi, and Brad Smith are revered in these parts. Clarkson plays that brand of hockey, and can score. I am sure he will be a fan favourite in no time. Hits, checks, scores and fights, Leaf nation will embrace him with open arms.

    Are the Leafs better today than they were three weeks ago? Man, I just don't know. The team sure does look different, I'm just not sure its a better team. Are we tougher to play against? Yes, clearly. Will the Leafs score as much as they have in the past? There is no team in the league that will push the Leafs around. Clarkson, Bolland in MacArthur and Grabovski out. We lost some speed and skill, in my opinion. But gained a defensive responsibility as well as a compete level that MacArthur didn't always show.

    What if Kadri makes another jump in production this year? Really grows into his role as a top line/#2 centre. Where do you think the team is then? This is really Carlyle's team now. There isn't a line on forward or defence that doesn't include someone willing to punch the crap out of the other team. This is worth noting, they resigned McClaren to a 2 year deal today as well. Not sure what we have seen from Colborne that necessitates his mention today. Other than being mentioned by Dudley he hasn't done a damn thing yet. If he has to play with the Marlies and force the Leafs to make room for him, I think that we both feel that is the way it used to be, and maybe should be.

    Do we still feel that Nonis is going to make moves, or is this the team he goes to camp with?

    1. The Leafs definitely became harder to play against this past season, and they should be even tougher with these additions. Is it enough? Not, in my view, to make them an elite squad just yet.

      As we both seem to suggest, there are still more questions than answers. But we see improvement, no question. Thanks Jim.

  2. I desperately want to say something positive, so here we go. I disagree with your assessment of the goaltending situation. I would rate it an A, if not even A+. Reimer has proven himself to be comparable to Rask, and I don't think anyone would want to trade him for Corey Crawford. I didn't like the Bernier trade because I didn't feel the team needed any help in net, but if it turns out that I was wrong that simply means we have a goalie who is even better than the guy I thought was an elite level number one.

    In either case, if we have a guy who is on the same level (or higher) than the two who played in the finals, I think we need to look somewhere else if we're trying to identify weaknesses.

    On the other hand, with respect to the defence, your use of the word "maybe" resonates more with me than your B grade.

    1. I hear you, Oliver, and respect your view. I've been a Reimer guy, no question. But for me to say he's a proven elite-level guy, based on his NHL experience, I can't say that yet. But again, I see your point.

  3. I'm going to enjoy what Clark-son brings to the table (if he wore the jersey and idolized Wendel growing up, he might just become a Clarke/Roberts hybrid - hopefully having the fitness and health of the latter) and I'll try very hard to ignore the cap hit ($750k more than I hoped) and especially the term (and hope that revenue/cap increases make this signing a long-term joy. Bozak isn't a 1C, and he also signed for $750k more than I would have hoped, so the market is skewed (as per usual for UFA's) but not as badly as it could have been.

    I think we will be working on an upgrade at 1C over the next year, but am thinking a deal with St. Louis could bring Petriangelo and Stewart over for Kulemin, Franson or Gunnar (or Liles?) and a prospect/pick. Two Ontario boys may be willing to re-sign for decent short-term deals until the cap increases... Kulemin may not be happy with no other 1st language friends on the team this year, especially considering the departure of Grabovski. Kuli may thrive in a new setting and I think St. Loo may have asked for him previously, though I'd be happy to have him in a 3rd line role, too. Of course, he may be part of that Crosby trade (!) that might take a different tack including our present 1C, where Phil and Bozak might now go the other way... might be worth some thought!

    As you indicate... we're not finished yet! Still plenty of wild and conservative options out there...

    BTW I read that if RFA arbitration signings put a team over the cap, another (compliance?) buyout may be allowed. Do you (or anyone) know if this is true?

    1. I'd be stunned if St. Louis ever dealt Pietrangelo, but crazier things have happened, InTimeFor62. Maybe someone will have an answer for your arbitration signing question!

    2. Today, the MLHS guys were talking about a 3rd compliance buyout being 'under the radar' relating to an arbitration eligible RFA being awarded a salary (above qualification) that puts the team over the cap.

      In that case, a 3rd compliance buyout is possible.

      This may further explain the willingness to use both buyouts this year (while not buying out Liles, who many expected). This may be a last ditch effort, should Liles be untradeable, or an arbitrator puts us over the cap.

      Here is part of the discussion:

      Komas Taberle:

      Question for the capologists out there regarding our 3rd compliance buyout.

      If a player (s) take us to arbitration and wins an award, can we then apply a 3rd compliance buy out to say Liles and use his 3.8M to help offset the cost of our RFA's?

      Burtonboy: Poulin specifically said it was a compliance buyout and it was a new clause in the CBA this yr. [only if your over the cap because of the arbitration award ]

      Gunnar, Franson and Fraser [he believes have arbitration rights this year]

      Komas Taberle: That's what I asked, apparently few know about it , but if a player gets more money at arbitration than you qualified him at, a team can use a 3rd buy out on a player, but that is yet to be confirmed.

      I did some searches on the CBA but came up with nothing directly related to RFA's and compliance buyouts... didn't have time for much more looking, but if Poulin is aware of such a possibility, then we may just have room to keep most of the team intact, especially since Liles doesn't appear to fit in the Carlyle/Nonis mould.

  4. I'm very sorry to say I disagree with you Michael. I think the Leafs are actually worse than they were at the end of the year. As you point out the two biggest needs have not been addressed and likely will not be as whatever cap room is left is going to existing RFA's.

    I just don't understand how anyone can be happy with the Clarkson contract. We may get 1-2 good years out of him and I stress 1-2 because there is zero evidence that he will ever approach 30 goals again. He is at best a third line winger who can play up on the second line for a while you know like a bunch of other guys the Leafs already have. The guy will be thirty for this season so is very likely to be already on the decline. He has only score 20 goals once in his career. The past year people look at his 15 goals and say he was on pace for about 25 or so but I say he scored 10 goals in 10 games to start the season before finishing with 5 in 38 which is about his career average give or take a few. At that pace he would have been hard pressed to finish with 20 over a whole year. So the question becomes is Clarkson the guy who had one great season and a awesome 3 weeks to start a shortend lock out year or is he the guy who's career high was 17?

    The only difference between MacArthur and Clarkson is about 2 million per year and 4 years and Clarkson fights. So is 4 years and 8 million dollars worth it for a few fights. Lets not forget MacArthur has 2 twenty goal seasons and is 2 years younger. I predict Clarkson's contract will be a drag on the Leafs within 3 years. The last fact that baffles me is the only two teams that Boston had trouble with were the two fastest teams in the league. So of course our response is to get slower, bigger and less skilled. Mind numbing. The Penguins and Rangers both tried to match brawn with brawn and how'd that work out for them? The Leafs didn't need to get tougher they needed to get even faster. The Leafs had plenty of grit in the playoffs this year. This is just a stupid, stupid move.

    As for the folly of keeping Bozak over Grabovski I can't even fathom a team doing that. It's beyond ridiculous. So we get another year of a guy playing top minutes with two of the more talented wingers in the NHL and not even being able to get 50 points. A complete and utter joke.

    I have been saying that the leafs were on the verge of becoming a very good team this very next season but I can no longer in good faith make that argument. I think they are going to hard pressed to make the playoffs next year and Nonis' short sighted moves have actually set the team back. I could live with the argument that Grabobski was overpayed but to turn around and spend that money on 2 worse longer term contracts is beyond absurd.

    I have lost all faith in Nonis and I honestly believe both he and Carlyle will lucky to finish the year let alone start next year. This in my honest opinion has been a disaster of an offseason for the Leafs.

  5. As for the grades I think the goaltending is definitely an A. I have been a big Reimer guy for a long time and I think he is the real deal.

    The forwards are a b-. We still lack a true center and we are a whole heck of a lot slower this year.

    The defense is at best a c. There are just too many guys who average at best. Any defense corp that has Mike Kostka averaging 21 minutes a night for a season can not be any thing but average. No disrespect to him but he is not a 3-4 guy. And now he is gone and no one has replaced him so the math gets even harder to try and get a c.

    1. I understand your perspective, Willbur, I really do. I'm trying to see the reasons for full-out optimism that some fans have, but this is why I am raising some of these questions...thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. I think you may be selling Colborne a little short. He looked pretty good in the two playoff games against the Bruins considering he had spent the previous few weeks in the press box. They also said Colborne was one of if not the best player on the Marlies in the 2nd half of the season, he had almost no points before Christmas and ended 2nd in Marlie scoring. Colborne had wrist surgery in the summer and said he was having problems shooting the puck until late Dec. when he felt something snap in his wrist. He said he thought he tore another ligament but it was actually scar tissue breaking free. Colborne said right away he could shoot the puck again. I'm still thinking Dudley knew what he was talking about when he said the Leafs were a lot closer than fans realized.

    1. If you're right about Colborne's development, Alton, that would be a big plus for the Leafs. I do wonder where he will fit, given the centers in front of him right now....

    2. I think they will ease Colborne in the NHL on the the third and forth line this season.

      Colborne will play against softer teams. They will sit McLaren against those teams. They have done that in the past season. When playing well, I could see Colborne bumped up to the third line.

      Because Colborne got lots of seasoning in the AHL they wont really hurt his development with limited minutes on the bottom 6. Colborne is actually a good defensive player, few goals scored when he is on the ice so he should fit well with Carlyle.

  7. I realize I might be overly harsh here and over reacting. But in my defense other than very brief moments if the Leafs could find a way to screw things up they do. I just can't for the life of me how anyone can think we are actually getting better. I just hope Bernier turns out to be what they hope because Leafs goalies are going to be facing lot of rubber this year.

  8. "how long before the Clarkson signing becomes a “bad” contract?"

    It depends on his play and I think in large part on the economic phenomena of inflation. Seven years is a long time. I remember when oil was a mere $50 a barrel. I even remember back when it was $28 and $13. I think it was $102 today.

    Let's look at inflation in the hockey world with a very familiar player on a long term contract. James van Riemsdyk was signed in 2011 for six years at $25.5 million for a cap hit of $4.25 million. Right now (especially with JVR's recent play) that looks like a good deal and could be a stunning bargain in 2017, but at the time some said "it makes no sense."

    I hated losing Grabovski, but I have calmed down and I think that retaining Bozak to play with Kessel allows Kadri the time to develop into a number one center with less pressure by playing as a number two center for a few years. We might have been asking too much to put him with Kessel this year.

    I'm not sure that the team is much better than they were when the playoffs ended. When you come that close...I just would have left that team intact as much as possible and let them bond and have another kick at the can. In the coming year, I was hoping for a breakthrough year for Frattin and a big rebound for Grabovski.

    One thing that rarely gets talked about is likeability. I liked Grabovski, he was a favorite. I liked MacArthur and Komorov. I liked Frattin and Scrivens. they were our prospects and future...guys that we had brought along in the AHL . Without all these players it won't be quite as easy to cheer for the current Leafs.

    1. Agreed, DP- the economics of the game are such that it's hard to judge where things may be years down the road. Maybe some of these contracts will be OK. Maybe.

      I love your likeability point. I'll aim to post on that in the near future...

    2. The only difference is JVR is was only 22 when he signed that contract. His best years are still ahead of him.

      Clarkson is turning 30 this year. I doubt very much if he is going to get better. His best days are already in the rear view mirror.

    3. Likeability? I agree that I liked Grabs, Frattin, Komorov, etc but I think there is at least a decent chance that we will LOVE Clarkson, Bolland and Bernier. Clarkson and Bolland are coming home to play. They want to be here.
      To me, Clarkson does not need to score that many points to be effective. He just really fits our top 6 well and makes us much more versatile than having a winger like MacArthur in the top 6. We don't need more speed with speed demons like Kessel and JVR around. We need the ability to also play the power game when required - possession, cycling, going to the net to score the ugly goals. There are games when that style is required. Having a line like JVR-Kadri-Clarkson or say Lupul-Kadri-Clarkson will really help in those tight-checking affairs. I also think that having Clarkson in the lineup means that we don't have to dress both Orr and McClaren. I'd like to see that 4th line be something like McClaren/ some young, cheap talent with upside on that 4th line.

      I don't think that scoring goals is going to be a problem for us. Where we really need to improve is on the defensive side. While I would like to see another top 4 defenseman added, I feel that we did already improve our defense with the additions of Clarkson and Bolland. To me, these 2 guys look like they should greatly improve the defensive play of lines 2/3/4. A 3rd line of McClement-Bolland-Kulemin may be very effective as a true shutdown line. I already mentioned the 4th line I am envisioning and of course a line that does not have both Orr and McClaren on it will automatically be better defensively.

      Now as for Bozak, I think that his new salary just fits better into the overall salary structure of the team when compared to Grabs 5.5 million. While he may be the number one center for next year, there will come a time when he is the number 2 or maybe even #3 center on our team. At 4.2 million that is far easier to digest or make sense of. When I evaluate Bozak, I don't care so much about how many points he scores. He does not seem to hamper Kessel all that much as Kessel has established himself as one of the top scoring wingers in the game. What I want from that line moving forward is to be better defensively and to control possession more. I'd really like to see Bozak, Kessel and their line mate really tighten things up.

      I think we are a better, more balanced, more versatile team today.

    4. I agree that Clarkson should be a nice fit for us, Apollo678. He is a grinding forward who can score at times. As you and others have noted, he apparently wants to be here, and (though we hear this all the time from athletes) did not sign here simply because of the money. The contract term is another argument, though many here have made good points about the later years of the contract and what might be a relatively non-impactful cap hit. We'll see.

      It will be interesting to see who Carlyle has in mind for his fourth line. Clearly Orr and MacLaren are signed and will play, how much we don't know. But will there be room for the young guys (Ashton, Colborne) that you mention?

      We should be more versatile and as you say better balanced going forward. We'll have to see whether we are better or not. Thanks apollo 678.

  9. I tend to agree with a lot of what you said Michael. There are two big holes missing on this team, and to date they are still missing. Bozak is NOT the #1C we need, and although his salary is not excessive, he's not a top 1 or 2 center for this team (or many others).

    As for Clarkson, I'm more inclined to see how he performs with the Leafs before casting too much judgement. Indications are he could have got a better salary elsewhere, but sought a longer term, and maybe even a home-town discount. If the Cap continues to rise (as expected), then in a few years a $5M contract may be considered quite reasonable for a top 6 forward. He'll be 36 at the end of the contract.

    Clarkson is likely going to be playing with Lupul & Kadri, and that could become a very productive line. Lupul as we know was hurt for much of the year, yet still managed more than a point per game. Kadri was close to that as well. The other wing saw Kulemin, sometimes Frattin or MacArthur. I;d like to think Clarkson is a significant upgrade on those players, and thus should help that line be very productive (barring injuries). I'll predict Clarkson will be a 45-50 pt guy this year, how's that. I'm not sure he can do that consistently for 7 years though. Here's hoping we've got maybe another Gary Roberts, who can play tough minutes and provide some offensive production as well.

    Still need that #1C and another shut down D-man. *sigh*

    1. If Clarkson plays anything like Roberts did during his years in Toronto, it would be welcome indeed for Leaf fans, Don (TML_fan).

      Have to believe there are more moves to come....

    2. I would be shocked if Clarkson hits career highs in Toronto. He'll be thirty this year and I can't for the life of me remember a player hitting his best years after 30. I want desperately for this to happen but reality keeps hitting me in the face with a big wet noodle.
      Nonis said it himself in his interview today that if Clarkson only gets 20 goals its still good value. He's already setting the bar low.

    3. This speaks to my earlier comment above that the Leafs have a history of getting these types of players (e.g. Owen Nolan, as much as I still support that deal to this day because they were going for the Cup) when they are a little long in the tooth. Clarkson is not "old" but as you note, Willbur, most NHL'ers aren't getting better at this point. His best production may be behind him. That's a lot of money wrapped up in a guy who may be declining in three years....

  10. Hey Michael,

    Like I mentioned in the earlier post - the bozak signing was (pardon my bad tone to the conversation) an appeasement of Kessel - which I could here in the coded answers given by Nonis in his presser today. Take a Quote like the following "We are already familiar with him over other available centers" as a weak sauce cover for Kessel's wishes - I agree with the other posters - someone like Bozak mostly looks as good as he does - stats sheet-wise is his luck to be playing with Kessel and some other quality wingers like Lupul and JVR in the past two yrs - and he still didn't come close to cracking 50 points. The only good thing I saw in his play is decent on faceoffs - which is amazing on the leafs - goes to show our real situation on the center position, his ability of the penality kill/provide some defensive responsibility to kessel line and can score in ShootOuts. That kind of a player does not deserve the kinda money he got - so bad move by Nonis.

    Clarkson is a good player but his age at the time of his signing cannot be denied - he is 30 next season - we have about 2-3 decent seasons from him after which we start to think of his contract as a boat anchor, perhaps along with Lupul (also 30 next year) and Bozak (28 halfway next season). So I will hold my judgement for the next 2-3 season on Clarkson - based on his play and not his contract after which it is likely to be horrendous.

    Can't even begin to describe my anger at seeing both the fourth line - useless in the playoffs - face-punchers back on the payroll.

    As off 10:20pm July 5th - Bernier signed to a 2-year deal with a 2.9 M cap hit plus the 500K of salary that the team ate for him. Not bad for a guy you consider to have potential to be an elite starter - now we wait and watch the crease next year.

    Some of our significant RFA's left to sign: Kadri, Gunnarson, Franson, Colborne, Fraser, Owuya, and Rynnas (with $ 10,870,833 - in cap space remaining).

    Meaning - we do indead can expect some trades - possible players involved: Liles, Kulimen, and maybe Holzer.

    And later on in the year - if Bernier takes over the reigns of the crease from Reimer - then expect Reimer to either be dealt or let go to be a UFA next year. This is my bit of speculation based on the management's attitude towards him as a player.

    And that we are already so tight to the cap and we have big name players needing new contracts like: Phanuef, Kessel, Bolland, Kulimen, McClement, Gardiner, Brennan and Reimer.

    It would only make sense that the leafs will have to let go of some of these players for picks, players or to free agency.

    Let me know what you guys think will be the next shoe to drop?

    Anon from Scarborough

    1. To a certain extent these are glass half full/glass half empty discussions, Scarborough Anon. There is a positive way to look at Bernier, Bozak, Clarkson, Bolland (and Orr/MacLaren), and in the same breath the same moves can be looked at as not really moving the team substantially forward, given the reality of Reimer, Grabovski, MacArthur, etc..

      Nonis is building his team, for sure. I guess we have to wait for the finished product to evaluate better...

  11. I must say that I'm one of those 'full-out optimistic' fans that you're talking about. Here's why:

    Let's first consider what the Leafs 'lost' in this shuffle: Ben Scrivens, Grabo, McArthur and Matt Frattin - a back-up goalie and a bunch of speedy but not too skilled, inconsistent, mid-range players two of whom (Mac and Grabo) proved over the last few years that they have no extraordinary skill or leadership potential and one of whom is still a promising young winger with some upside but still rather inconsistent and by no means a game-changer. Behind them this group of players have a few years of experience of losing and not bringing the type of game that separtes them as players or pushes their team beyond mediocrity. Neither of them contributed in a significant way to the Leafs' first (albeit bittersweet and short) playoff berth this last season. I really don't see any of these guys 'breaking out' in a big way and coming back to haunt us.

    Insted we got ourselves a healthy, promising young goalie who is projected to contend for the starting role and two gritty, hard-working, defencively-responsible Leafs-fans forwards with no less skill or upside than the guys they're replacing. More importantly, between them these 3 guys have 3 cup rings and an appearence in the finals - they are proven winners, they wanna play here and they bring a physical, defencively-responsible game that fits in with what the coach is looking for.

  12. I like the Bozak signing not only because it is good for our chances of retaining our true elite forward next year when his contract is up for extension but also because Bozak is a good hockey player. The guy plays huge minutes, PP, PK, has speed and skill, passes, scores timely goals and back-checks. He's the only leaf that has been able to score in the shootout and shootouts matter in today's game - those extra points are often the difference between making the playoffs or not. (Speaking of which wouldn't it be nice if Bernier could do a little better than Reimer in this department?) This ppp crap about how face-offs and shootouts don't matter is exactly that - crap. Of course face-offs matter - especially on PP - when they keep the puck in the opposition's end. When Bozak wins the face-off and the rest of the powerplay gets to set up an attack and score, he doesn't get the assist but he definitely has a role in that goal. Also, there is a good reason why, as some have pointed out, Carlyle, and before him Wilson, were reluctant to split up Kessel and Bozak and it may not always show up on the scoresheet. Kessel likes to have the puck and make plays and that is exactly what he gets from Bozak - the puck to do with it as he pleases. Perhaps that's why Kessel has such high point totals? Finally, Kessel is a very private guy and he clearly lacks social skills and it may well be that it is because of his friendship with Bozak that he is able to play with confidence that he plays with for the team. Who are we to know better?

    With these moves, I think we're stronger in goal, I don't think we've compromised the offence and we've gotten more defencively responsibe (insofar as Clarkson and Bolland are supposed to be 'defensive forwards') even though our defence corps remains the same (albeit a year older and more experienced). Between Ranger, Reilley and the Swedish guy I think our defence can only get better as noone on the existing roster (other than maybe Liles who hasn't been a mainstay anyway) is on the decline and the youngsters are developing. I'd say this team may well deserve straight As.

    As far as money and cap space go I really don't think what the big deal with signing Clarkson to 7 years is - the cap is gonna go up and make the cap-hit irrelevant. I think we got a steal on Bozak.

    When all is said and done, we've traded a group of 'losers' for a group of 'winners'. The team just got bigger, stronger and more experienced. Carlyle got what he wanted and he has won the Cup before with a very similarly constructed team. And I'm sure Don Cherry is smiling. Everything makes sense. I love it!

    1. See response below, leafdreamer. You make a lot of fair points.

  13. I like these signings. The Clarkson term is a bit much, I agree, but by year 5 of his deal, the salary cap will probably have rebounded to the point that the cap hit won't sting quite as much. Worst case, Colby Armstrong and Darcy Tucker will be distant memories, so the Leafs will be able to keep calm and carry on buying out their problems (even with a pesky cap hit). It's nice to see them get the premiere free agent of the year, even if the class is weak.

    I don't really get the Bozak haters. He has excellent chemistry with Kessel and if the top line retains Lupul, you're looking at two 80 point players (barring injuries) along with 60 points for Bozak. That would be a bit higher than he's achieved, thus far, but he's improved every year and 60 points is not a big stretch for him. A first line that produces 200+ points in a season is just fine by me, particularly if the second line centred by Kadri looks to do some offensive damage as well. I was really hoping we'd see Ference in the blue and white, but c'est la vie. Isn't strength on D supposed to be this team's developmental strong suit, anyways? The fact is one of Reimer or Bernier could be moved for a beast on D at the trade deadline, so I remain hopeful.

    I was sorry to see Grabbo go and secretly wish to see him in the division (Ottawa) where he can tear it up agains the Leafs and Habs in valiant yet fruitless individual efforts. He was fun to watch and not really that overpaid (by a million or so) but obviously not a great fit. Still, happy trails!

    1. I appreciate that perspective, Matt. I've long aclknowledged Bozak is a nice player. I'm neither as high on him as some nor as down on him as others.

      And I like your comment on Grabbo. There are players we just like (or don't), as DP noted above, and he respected the crest and played hard here.

  14. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for keeping the posts coming.

    I'm happy to have Bolland (as previously stated), and Clarkson is a great (and much coveted lately) addition. I'm further encouraged to hear about Clarkson's devotion to Toronto (city and team) and his acceptance of a salary on par with Lupul's, when higher bids were seemingly on offer.

    Is the money thrown at this contract (including the term as a factor) too much? Of course! But as you've implied, it's almost irrelevant in the culture of pro sports today. The only concern being fitting all the inflated salaries (including unsigned RFA's and any further additions) under the current cap ceiling.

    I would have preferred Grabbo over Bozak at 1C, and I resisted posting an emotional reaction over losing Grabbo, MacArthur, and possibly Reimer for no return other than cap room, and their ostensible replacements (Bozak/Clarkson/Bernier) being unlikely to score more points or necessarily play better in nets.

    However, I want to see Kessel re-sign more than any other soon-to-be renegotiating Leaf, and I have a feeling that Bozak's return may be a key factor in retaining Kessel for the foreseeable future. Is it possible that there was some kind of conversation between management, Kessel, and Bozak re: their conjoined futures with the Leafs..?

    As for MacArthur, another Leaf killer has been born, and he's just up the road in our division...

    I'll continue to wait for more from Nonis, as I think your assessment of goal, forward, & defense is reasonable at an overall 'B' (and not a clear upgrade over last year's brand so far). Reimer's been good, but short seasons due to health and last season's lockout prevent me from giving him an 'A' just yet (maybe a B+ or A-.) And with Bernier in, maybe we'll never get to see Reimer in a full season as the Leafs' #1G.

    We all seem to agree that there are still holes to fill, so with the free-agent frenzy dying down, here's hoping we pick up a bit more speed and skill up front and a bit more stability on D soon via trade(s).

    Go Leafs!!

    1. I have to believe that extending Kessel this summer is a huge priority for Nonis, Matty D. We can't know for sure if the Bozak signing was preceded by some informal chats with Phil, but who knows. To lose Kessel now, in light of all the Bozak/Kessel chemistry talk and Bozak's new deal, would not seem to make a whole lot of sense.

      I'd be shocked if Kessel and his agent don't look for absolutely max dollars, but if he's happy in Toronto, he can likely get that here.

      It all seems to be monopoly money these days anyway....thanks Matty.

  15. My general feeling today is that the Leafs are no better today than they were this past season. They did not address their biggest needs, which we all know are center and defense.

    I'm not trying to sound blindly optimistic, but I do believe there is a purpose to what they are doing. I guess it all depends on whether we all believe their plan will pan out. First off, whatever we all feel about Clarkson's contract (I personally don't like the seven-year length), at least we didn't see a $100 million deal given out anywhere. Those insane contracts are hopefully a thing of the past.

    I'll go ahead and try to predict what I think the Leafs are trying to do now:

    Sign Bozak's best (and now happy) friend Kessel to an extension this year, using next year's more generous cap space.

    Trade some assets, possibly even Phaneuf, for a rock solid defenseman.

    Mold Kadri into that #1 center and gently push Bozak down the depth chart.

    Look to a much stronger free agent crop next year for a big upgrade on defense.

    My feeling is that the teams around the Leafs did as much, or more to solidify themselves for the upcoming season. I don't see the Leafs making a big splash this year in the NHL. I think they are looking at the 2014-15 season, with hopefully an elite scorer in Kadri, power forwards in JVR and Clarkson clicking, Reilly and a couple new faces playing defense so Gardiner can flow into the offensive game, and Reimer shedding off strong competition from Bernier to establish himself firmly as a number one goalie.

    Well, it all sounds good In theory right? I hope that isn't too many things needing to go the right way for them to succeed.

    1. As I was reading your post, what hit me Pete is that the Leafs are perhaps being perceived as an improving roster by NHL players themselves. If that is indeed the case, then it may not be unrealistic to think that a high-end defenseman would want to come to Toronto next summer, just as Clarkson signed on this week.

      Yes, lots of things still need to line up, as you say, but I still feel the East is wide open, as it has been in recent years, especially this past season. Boston may be in (slight?) decline, and I'm not sure others will be that much better than before, relative to what the Leafs are doing. Thanks Pete.

  16. As I was just mentioning to Scarborough Anon, leafdreamer, we can absolutely look at these moves with a positive eye. I'm probably just such a long-time skeptic that I''m sort of from Missouri on all this!

  17. Hi Michael:

    Many of the old time (50's, 60's) players, especially lifetime AHLers, must be drooling or rolling over in their graves. It is hard to believe the money being paid for mediocrity in all sports.

    I find the general acceptance of the cap level going up and the deal looking better down the road as somewhat alarming. Cap going up is going to be a byproduct of shafting the fan, and MLSE has proven to be very good at charging what the traffic will bear. Note: Biggest factor will be U.S. TV revenue but this is not NFL.

    Many have been wondering what is Nonis trying to do? While additions are Ok, they do not really address the primary concerns of VLM and readers. Rather, I view the direction as removing excuses for Carlyle. It was apparent last year that Carlyle had problems with Grabbo, McArthur, Frattin - now they are gone. Is Gardiner next? Looks like Carlyle will get the team he wants, now he can be truly responsible and accountable.

    Hope Nonis has more planned, otherwise I have tendency to agree with Wilbur.

    1. I could only nod along with your first sentence, Ralph (RLMcC).

      There seems little doubt this is being constructed as Carlyle's team- at least the kind of team he wants. While I am reading the hopeful comments here closely, I hear what you and Willbur are saying. Thanks Ralph.

  18. I remember how many of us were looking at the shortened season as a tryout/audition for the future. I've had some contact with the world of entertainment, where the concept is utilized for every show and this one is 'not ready for primetime'.

    In such a 'pre-production' setting, sometimes very talented (often 'unproven') performers are 'cut' despite a potential that may (or may not) be reached. Some overcome the next time, others disappear... yet the show moves forward into rehearsals with the chosen group that we saw in the last 'short' season.

    The Leafs are clearly moving their 'Off Broadway' production into pre-production for the 'Broadway' theatres and have chosen some proven performers (Bolland, Clarkson) to bolster the mix for the big stage.

    Even though we do still have a core of players from the off-Broadway version that are acceptable to the director (Carlyle) (and a new goalie who is 'unproven' with 'star potential'), there is still the possibility of landing a megastar that could change the whole mix of the cast entirely. This is where we are right now...

    We may also find some understudies (Marlies) breaking into the picture as the show progresses at training camp (but the results of last years auditions are not yet final).

    We have other uncertainties, in that it appears Franson may be asking for more than the (CBA) producers can afford going into the show, so unless all the RFAs work together within the cap constraints, there will be more changes coming.

    On another note, the salaries for both the Clarkson and Bozak contracts appear to 'pyramid' - with actual pay being above the cap in the middle years of the term. I think such a structure keeps other players from comparative 'jealousy' issues and helps keep the player 'hungry' enough to keep developing/maintain work ethic through the middle of the contract. This also plays into potential trade-ability during the latter years (to cap floor teams).

    We may not be in a position to 'catch the vision' that management has for the team AND it is so hard to have found what we like in players who have now departed (or soon will). We all can find something to like (or the contrary) in both new and departed players, and since we really don't know what the future holds for any of them, it's easier to lament the negative than to embrace the hope (when so many of us have been through a multi-decade 'wringer' already).

    I'm accepting that I can't change any of these choices by Leaf management, then wishing the departed players 'all the best' for their lives and careers while hoping (above hope) that the new guys and the plan will all come together for an enjoyable mix in the games we start to watch next fall!

    I have to 'disconnect' from what I like (knowing that these changes are out of my control) and hope to be pleasantly surprised by the 'final' product that is on the ice, when next we see the fruits of all this change... Let the show go on!

    1. Your "Off-Broadway" comparison rings rather true, InTimeFor62. These moves, right or "wrong", are about trying to get this team to a point where they are actually contenders for something more than simply a playoff spot.

      And you make a great final point- we all have our favourites, players we are sad to see go, etc., but in the end, players come and go and most of us follow the Leafs because of the logo, our connection with the team over many years and what it means to us as fans. We wish the guys leaving well and look forward to the contributions of the incoming players. Thanks, InTimeFor62

    2. Nice analogy, but it hinges on Bolland and Clarkson being more proven as performers. You don't have to look at particularly complicated stats to see that Clarkson's record doesn't 'prove' him to be much, if any, better than Grabovski or MacArthur. All three could be considered actors to have had one hit show but a lot of flops around them: the big difference is Clarkson's age

    3. Yours is a cautionary tale, KiwiLeaf. Only time will tell if these moves pan out as well as Nonis and the Leaf faithful hope. For now, they will be expected to be very important contributors....

  19. With my new passport in hand I am going to settle in Missouri too. I don’t see any tangible improvement in areas which needed improvement, just a lot of 180 degree manoeuvring that could just as easily send us backward. I hope that the Bernier hype turns out to be true, but past performance wise Scrivens and Bernier look like a coin toss to me.

    In a perfect world the cap does not exist but unfortunately we are all amateur capologists now. If we are going to follow the team off ice then contracts become a big part of evaluating performance. From a business strategy viewpoint, it does not seem that money is being wisely spent. And if we are to look at it from an ethical point of view, I don’t like what they did to Grabovski. Those dubious ethics have a karmic dimension that can easily come back to haunt you. I wish he hadn’t burnt his bridges but I understand his initial reaction, especially with the bad news coming on the eve of his wedding.

    Clarkson may well turn out better signing than Burke’s signings but then again, he might not. On the surface at least, aside from being UFA he certainly doesn’t look like a player that would command those dollars and that length of contract. I like something that Michael said yesterday about a better long-term strategy in which there is a stronger focus on recruiting, drafting and development and less emphasis on free agency. In other words, keep the draft picks, draft well, recruit college and Euro free agents and when the best of them approach free agency offer extensions. If there is waffling then roll them over into players or future draft picks. If you are to use free agency, then use it judiciously, and avoid the high end overpriced player.

    The above runs counter to Nonis’ current strategy and that of JFJ etc. Unfortunately, Maple Leaf management appears to be on an endless treadmill of “produce now” while simultaneously trying to repair the injudicious moves of their predecessors. After all, isn’t that what Nonis is doing now? JFJ, for all his wacky trading of high draft picks retained enough low picks to allow Morisson to stock the team with sound NHL players. Burke traded high picks too. Nonis appears to be going the opposite way in keeping high picks but dolling out high and mid-level picks like Santa on Christmas. Forgive me, but this is the third time I have used this Branch Rickey quote in one week: “There is quality in quantity”. I wish this sideways choreography would stop and they would retain sufficient picks so that the internal development system they have established can do their job with as many resources as possible.

    1. You're right, Bobby C., at some point we sports/hockey/Leaf fans had to morph into experts on the law, economics and a cap system. To a certain extent, it has taken (I'll only speak for myself) some of the joy out out following the sport.

      Yes, it will be interesting to see where Grabovski lands- with karma in mind...

      The quantity/quality (and I well remember my Dad telling me about Branch Rickey, one of the great old names in baseball) debate is why I invoked Belichik's name the other day. The Patriots contend every season for a lot of reasons, but one reason is they have an overflow of draft picks. They can afford to be wrong a lot, as long as they are right often enough! Thanks Bobby.

  20. When it comes to the 7-yr term of Clarkson's contract, I think whoever referred to Tucker's hangover contract the Leafs still are paying has it absolutely right.

    I doubt Nonis is expecting Clarkson to still be playing in 7 yrs. I imagine if he gave four good yrs management would be overjoyed.

    So doing some math - 7 yrs @ $5.25 = $36.75 million. If they gave Clarkson that over a 4 yr term then he'd be earning $9 million and change a yr. Well, that's not going to happen. This contract is no different than the very long contracts given out to a number of players a few yrs ago. My point is not to get hung up on the term of the contract by thinking that anyone in Leaf's management thinks he'll still be lacing up the skates in 2020. The deal is all about the total $ figure.

    But I think most importantly is what the Clarkson signing tells us Leaf management thinks about the team, and I think they believe the team is fairly close to being competitive enough to make strong runs in the playoffs in the next 2-3 yrs.

    From most of the ratings being given here it seems management may be more optimistic than the team's fans...

    1. Fans always want to hope for the best but I understand why many ask questions about the deals that have been made. I have questions myself.

      I agree that management is looking for Clarkson to be what he is for the next 2-4 years. If he helps us have success in the playoffs, I doubt any of us will quibble about salary or contract term. Thanks Steve.

  21. I'm certainly not up-to-date on cap strategy or relative salaries, but to my eyes the moves made to date look pretty good. There's more to come, for sure, but I don't think we've lost anything in Frattin, MacArthur, Grabovski et al that we haven't improved on. That doesn't mean I didn't like them as Leafs, just that they didn't make themselves essential.
    We got awfully accustomed to a lowering of the bar over the past decade. Neither Frattin nor MacArthur play with the determination that Clarkson does, and I think Bolland will be more aggressively effective than Grabbo was. (Much as I liked Grabbo's fortitude in the face of constant pounding, he was never going to be #1 or #2 with the Leafs, and he wasn't that good as a #3.) One thing some of us have bemoaned over the past while is the lack of "determination to win" that seemed to plague the Leafs. I'd say that's been significantly addressed over the past 12 months.
    To say we've given up speed, well, Kadri, Lupul, Kessel, Gardiner, Bozak - seems we've still got plenty of it, to me. And we've improved our defensive players.
    If we'd had our current team three months ago, we'd have beaten the Bruins, in my opinion. Now there's a very good chance we'll be able to extend Kessel and add a couple more parts over the next 12 months or so, building the possibility of long-term success. I'm fine with that!

  22. All well-made points, Gerund O'. Yes, we have spoken here often about a determination to win, and Carlyle and Nonis want a team that is hard to play against. Bringing in players like Bolland and Clarkson adds to the sandpaper element, for sure.

    Following up on InTimeFor62's thoughtful post above, I still feel this past mini-season was an experimental year for Carlyle. He did not have the roster he wanted, and was usually tweaking what he had and giving different people opportunities at various points in the season. In the end, thy surprised us all by almost beating Boston. We'll see if this new roster, with additions, no doubt, will be even stronger next season and beyond. Thanks Gerund.

  23. Always interested in what you have to say on VLM Michael.

    I've commented a few times on here and really enjoy it.

    I think the negative reactions we see these days come from Nonis violating our expectations on what a better team looks like. Most of us thought a number one center and a top 2 d-man. That was all we thought the leafs really needed to win a playoff series or two next year. Instead we got a very gifted young goaltender, a excellent 3rd line checking centre with some offensive abilities and a tough possession winger with great hands. This violated and ignored what everyone though Nonis would do.

    Obviously Nonis's assessment on the weaknesses of the team are far different than ours. What Nonis saw - i think - was a team that got lucky last year. He must have saw a team with no decent checking line (no offence to grabovski) and a lack of possession time in the offensive zone. Nonis's lack of emotion when the leafs lost (which they flashed on the tv) was from an assessment that this team was lucky to be in the playoffs and perhaps he believed we were only there because of the shortened season. We did after all get out shot most of the season - and if the season had gone on another thirty games - it probably would have caught up with us.

    Fan anger has to do with the fact - that people believe that the leafs as constructed last year were winners. Well I watched most of the games last year and if it weren't for the amazing heroics of kadri, frattin (before injury) and lupul this team would have ended up in 8th to 10th spot. I don't expect lupul and kadri to score at the wicked rate they did last year so we needed a better line-up.

    I think their is method in Nonis's madness - first off - with the team as constructed do we need a '#1' center - could we even afford one ? If a number one center in the league costs 8 to 10 million a year then we can't retain Kessel or a player like him on the first line and if we don't have kessel (or a player like him) - then why do we need such a #1 center ?

    The idea of a number 1 center is that they are both a defensive and offensive stalwart. They are a superior two way player - but I think they way this team is put together we have one elite shutdown center now in Bolland and a very talented shutdown center in McClement. So since we have two shut down centres - we don't really need our #1 center to be a shutdown guy. For us we need a good enough #1 center who is well rounded and play all facets of the game. The way Nonis is putting together this team is to take the load off the kessel line and the kadri line and therby build a balanced attack that can't be shut down easily.

    Carlyle's goal is to limit Goal Against (i think) and that way we don't have to have a record shooting percentage in order to make the playoffs this coming year. We definitely have the forwards to help us do this.

    Our defence is weak - or at least not ready to go to the finals next year. I think that Nonis thinks that Gardiner might turn into a top two defensmen (this year or next) and that franson is turning into a top4 guy. Combine that with Reilly probably making the team as the sixth defenseman and Blacker challenging Fraser for a spot. I don't think Nonis really thinks he lack a defense core. I think Nonis imagines this as our D this year.

    Gardiner - Phaneuf
    Gunnarson - Franson
    Reilly/Brennan/Fraser - Blacker

    I think he also expects one of percy and finn to be top 4 dman in two years time and the Reilly will be top 4 by then.

    Anyway - sorry about the post - just needed to get it off my chest - i understand fan and expert frustration but I see the moves as making alot of sense. I miss Frattin and alot of people feel betrayed by the treatment of Reimer. But I do think we are going to make the playoff this year and if our young D core continues to grow we might be contenders for 2014-2015 season.

    J.Ash in Calgary

    1. There's a lot of food for thought in your post J.Ash- (Good to hear from another thoughtful Leaf follower in Calgary...) You are suggesting, if I understand correctly, that Nonis is building the roster in a bit of an unorthodox manner. That is, given the make-up of who we have now at centre, we may not "need" a classic first-line center who is excellent both in terms of offensive production and all-around play. I'm still not sure that we have enough, but there is some balance in terms of skill, work ethic and defensive responsibility with the guys we have now.

      Your expectations for our defense corps may be a bit higher than mine (right now, I see some skill and a lot of potential, not necessarily a lot of proven high-end play). But if, as you suggest, individuals such as Rielly, Percy and others will be as advertised, you may be proven right.

      I think you hit the nail on the head when it comes to Nonis and his dispassionate view of this team. He does not appear to be falling in love with anyone, and may well have seen this past season as a result of good fortune. He knows (as we fans do) we needed to get a lot better.

      Whether we have or not, we'll find out,. Thanks for a really solid post.

  24. Wow! Interesting salary structure for Clarkson and Bozak!

    Heavily weighted with signing bonuses that would allow the Leafs to 'retain salary' for any year they are traded after the signing bonus is paid (July?). So rather than doing that for a whole contract length, they could still 'help' such teams to take on the contracts at a lower salary.

    Controlled revenue sharing is now here!

    Clarkson's salary is 1M per season, with the rest being a signing bonus each year. Bozak has 2M of each year as signing bonus.

    Here's some Capgeek tweets:

    A whopping $27.75M of #Leafs David Clarkson's $36.75M contract will be paid out in signing bonuses. Unique structure.

    #Leafs Tyler Bozak will also be paid heavily in signing bonuses: $10M of his $21M contract.

    1. This gets very confusing for me, InTimeFor62- it was so much simpler in the old days!

  25. Hi Michael,

    Looking around the blogs there is certainly much wailing and gnashing of teeth right now, particularly amongst the groups who tend to keep statistical analysis central to their discussions.

    For my part, I was a fan of Grabo and not of Bozak, so that trade-off didn't appear to me to improve our team but if it was about Kessel stamping his foot then that would've put management in a tricky position. Both Clarkson and Bernier seemed to come at a price higher than I would have liked to have paid: Clarkson in real dollar terms; Bernier insofar as he cost us two of our most tradable expendable assets. I do tend to sit in the camp that would have rather thrown our efforts and dollars at a top-pairing D.

    But the point is, so plain that you can see it from Anaheim to New York, the only opinion that is in play this off-season is Carlyle's. And the fact that our Coach and GM appear to be working hand in glove towards an agreed end should be one to make us fans rejoice given what we've experienced in recent times.

    So why isn't it? What's the real problem? The problem, I humbly propose, is that the "agreed end" our glorious leaders are working towards is one which is fundamentally out of whack with what the fanbase seems to want. Thus, Nonis gets compared to a potato on PPP, not because people can't understand the decisions (because they can), but because they are at odds with the principles that underlie them.

    Carlyle wants a team that will grind, fight and generally bludgeon its way to victory. Thus Frattin, Grabo, MacArthur are out while Orr, McLaren, Bolland, Clarkson get contracts.

    The fans look at our best player being Phil Kessel and see us pushing Boston to the utter brink in round because of speed and skill rather than size and strength. They see our best young hopes in development being Kadri, Gardiner and Reilly; all fast, skilled players who want to score goals.

    It's little wonder that there is anger and confusion about the last few days.

    1. I must acknowledge KiwiLeaf that I do not as a rule read the comment sections on other blogs. But it would appear that you have well captured the glass half-full/half-empty debate that has been stirred (yet again) around where the team is headed.

      I'm likely not an effective spokesperson for either "camp"- I respect the value of the stats that matter, but don't hinge my assessment of players (or of team play, for that matter) based on statistical breakdowns. Nor can I provide a bullet-proof argument defending the type of team Carlyle wants, or what Nonis is now giving the coach by way of a roster.

      The only thing I will say, as a kind of response to your third-last paragraph, is that I truly believe Carlyle knows, of course, that this is still a skating team with speed as a 'plus' (in scouting terms) attribute. He certainly recognizes that you won't win anything without skill. My guess is, based on his own "success" in the past, he feels that surrounding his elite skill guys with grinders and fighters is the best way to get to the finals- as long as you have elite goaltending to cover up the inevitable deficiencies.

      I realize that comment won't satisfy those critical of Nonis and Carlyle. Im just trying to provide some perspective. Thanks KiwiLeaf.

    2. I wonder sometimes, how much easier their lives would be (Nonis and Carlyle) if they were transparent about these kinds of plans. Given that it's highly unlikely that the other coaches and GMs aren't capable of working out exactly what they're trying to do, why not discuss it openly? Might save a few cardiac events amongst the fans...

    3. I could be wrong, but I feel that most GM's usually talk in broad terms about a "plan" but don't feel inclined to share much with the fan base beyond that. Burke suppsoedly built "from the back end", though that was suspect, to me, in terms of what he actually delivered. So it set him up for a lot of fair criticism.

      It seems pretty evident Nonis and Carlyle want goaltending and grit to go along with speed and skill. That appears to be the blueprint, if we can call it that. It may be, as you suggested earlier, that some fans just don't like the type of team they are trying to build....

  26. J. Ash, Gerund O'Malley and InTime462 (and others) made some great points. I'm an optimistic Leafs fan who is startled to see so many unhappy fans. Nonis wants to win a Stanley Cup. He does not want marginal improvement - he wants superstars: elite players who win it all. In his words, he wants "something special in 12-24 months". So 2013-2014 is likely not the year we see the Stanley Cup on Yonge st.

    Sadly elite players are hard to come by (where is Dougie Gilmour II?) . He knows he has to be a patient and wait for an opportunity through trade, free agency or prospect development.

    Blue and white disease is banished. Grabo had a bad year -- he's gone. MacA was inconsistent -- he's gone. Frattin battled injury and was inconsistent -- he's gone. Reimer dropped the puck in game 7 and we lost -- they brought in an alternative. Nonis doesn't want a good goalie; he wants an elite goalie. Bozak was a good soldier who did what the coach wanted -- he's back with a raise (despite alienating a horde of fans).

    Are the Leafs better next year? I'm not sure. Nonis identified his core players and kept them (so far) and that's the most important thing. The Leafs lack forward depth and, other than Colborne, I don't see NHL-ready forwards on the Marlies. The defence is a work-in-progress for sure. We might need another year of "evaluation" to figure that one out.

    Robert in Kingston

    1. I sense most of us would agree, Robert, that we are looking for a team with serious championship aspirations, not just a borderline playoff team. That requires all kinds of things- keeping a core group, as you mentioned, and building depth across the roster.

      Some think we're way better in goal because of Bernier. I'm not sure. Only one guy can play at a time, and if both aren't happy campers, that's a tough one. Young tandems rarely work.

      Our defense is OK, but if you believe Gardiner and Rielly et all will be legitimate stars, then in two or three years we will be good on the backline. But who will do the tough sledding and be that shutdown defence pair?

      Up front, we have more "top six' talent than before- or do we? Do we just have a lot of good third-line talent after two or three elite players?

      I don't have the answers, but you said it welll- we'll know more in a year....thanks Robert.